Wednesday, August 13, 2014


"Das Schweigen"
Johann Heinrich Füsli
Limbo is a challenging place to be. Held in place, you look forward, to a future just out of reach, just a bit hazy and unfocused. Yet you also look backward, down a road at once exhausting and fraught with potholes, detours and 20/20 hindsight, but also teeming with wisdom and perspective gained along the way. Your unknowns are too many and, frankly, too unknown to feel as if you have any leverage to carry you onward. But you've come too far to lose momentum now.

Limbo is a place where all control lies in the hands of another. And so you continue to sit, full of latent energy, motivation and restlessness.

For Jeff and me, Limbo has been home for three months, six days, and counting. In the bigger picture, I suppose we really have lived here for four years (but who's counting?).

It has been a while since I've spilled my guts on the page. And the interesting thing about Limbo is, having been here before, I've come to understand it's the most creative place for me to be. Out of necessity, spinning my wheels gets my gears going.

I suppose if you were to characterize the process of adoption, it would be as a series of do-this-as-fast-as-you-can tasks so you can get to The Long Wait. From November to May, Jeff and I were caught up by the seemingly endless checklist of requirements we needed to complete for someone (several someones) to tell us we lead an acceptable life in which to raise a child. Every step of the way, as we winnowed the list by a couple of checkmarks at a time (often only to add one more new item) we felt the light shine a little stronger at the end of this tunnel.

(And don't worry - we've heard all of the lamentations from friends and family and experienced firsthand the cynicism that jumps into the rabbit hole with you when you start asking why two people like us, with our history, effort and demonstrated appreciation, have to jump through the hoops when others abuse and take for granted the gift of life they've been given. It may be a fair question, but it is an unproductive one that we are long past at this point.)

Finally in May - after completing financing plans and financial statements, undergoing physicals and identifying a pediatrician; after pages and pages of autobiographies and hypothetical answers to philosophical questions about everything from discipline to spirituality to ethnic sensibility to our thoughts on children watching television; after fingerprinting and background checks, reference letters and 3+ books to read (and subsequently more questions to answer) and two interviews with the social worker; after four drafts of our family profile book; and after questioning and requestioning our own thoughts and beliefs and values and still leaving the questions and expectations open for discussion and reinterpretation at a later date - we were finally ready to jump into the pool of waiting families ready to find that perfect match. But the further we get from May, the more we realize this is a pool of couples treading water waiting, with no timeline, for that perfect match to invite us to come out and dry off and hopefully not push us back in after we've done so. (Limbo can be a pool, right?)

During our wait, we have had our expectations of just who is out there and just what they're looking for shattered and rebuilt several times. Each encounter is surprising in both the details of the situation and the timeline for birth. If nothing else, learning about these birth families and the circumstances that have brought them to this brave decision has been a crash course in true life.

To step away from the mixed metaphors and catch you up on the facts - since May, we've been presented with four birth families. Of those four, one has actually looked at our profile book. This young woman took an interest in us, based on the very surface-level image available to her through a 20-page photo book. We met with her a few weeks ago, underwent essentially the most important job interview of our lives, and quickly learned we were greatly incompatible with each other.

Back to Limbo we go.

Existentially, sterilely, looking at our experience from  a thousand feet, I can confidently say we are stronger, better people with a more complete world view because of what we continue to go through. Will it make us better or better prepared parents? Unanswerable. Does it make us wiser, more empathetic human beings? For sure.

But from my seat in Limbo, on the most personal level, I have never felt more vulnerable - despite the methodic microsope of our six-month homestudy process; despite the physical poking and prodding and grin-and-bear-it, medically prescribed humiliation I endured for three years. Until now, we have been able to steer, or at least knowingly leave ourselves in the hands of fate. This is something altogether different - this is control of this very important, very emotionally raw part of our lives placed squarely with some completely unknown person. 

Is vulnerability a bad thing? Perhaps that's too simple a question...

     Hindsight tells me to search for the silver linings.

     Hope tells me life has an amazing, unspeakable reward awaiting us in the relatively          near future.

     Love tells me Limbo will fade without us even realizing we've left it behind.

But for now, with our souls exposed, with our hindsight, hope and love battling uncertainty, exhaustion and doubt, my heart feebly mutters something about knowing we are great parents if only someone got to know us underneath the surface.

The ironic thing about Limbo? While going nowhere, it is nearly impossible not to get lost.

So in my attempt to regain clarity, I turn to this scribbling, stream-of-consciousness outlet once more, and through this exercise, here is what I know:

- Adoption is the beautiful, unbreakable commitment to true love between a child and that child's parents - both the adoptive parents-for-life and the life-giving birth parents.

- This is the momentous, defining path our lives were meant to follow.

- The joy we feel for the future still infinitely outweighs the oppressive, stagnant air we currently breath.

- We all have to face life's curveballs.

- It's OK to be frustrated and feel like we're being left behind at times so long as we remember that what we are doing cannot possibly be valued against the experiences of others following a different path and so long as we check our expectations whenever we can to regain perspective.

- I AM stronger now than I've ever been. And I am also more vulnerable than I've ever been. And I don't have to change anything about that.

- I am truly fortunate to have a partner as we keep each other company in Limbo and forever thereafter.

- I feel peace when I walk into our nursery.

- I want everyone to feel my excitement and know our story. This is how I know every minute of this journey is worth it:

I drove into work this morning brooding and frustrated, discouraged and disheartened by the past few months. But as I was walking away from my car, a co-worker started walking with me and asked me if I had gone on any fun vacations this summer. You know, idle small talk to fill the awkward air between us from the parking lot to the 2nd floor of City Hall.

So I started to give my stock response to this type of question: "Well, my husband and I are in the process of adopting a baby, so we haven't been taking many vacations lately in order to save our money and our time off." But I only got as far as "adopting a baby," and this co-worker lit up like Clark County from 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after the Fourth of July (we have a "small" problem with personal fireworks in our neighborhoods here).

And so we had a conversation about adoption - both in general and specifically about our experience so far - and she was genuinely interested and excited for me, this person who knew virtually nothing about my personal life and now knows much about the most personal part of my life. And I got that amazing feeling of affirmation I have gotten time and again that tells it to me straight up: This is right.

And so I will continue to sit in Limbo, holding my husband's hand, until we are able to take another step down the tunnel. But I will take this moment of stillness also to continue to tell this story of our trying, heart-wrenching, joyful, defining journey to every passer-by. Because it is inextricably essential to who we are and who we will become as a family. And one day, when we have passed through to the daylight again, I will be telling this story to my child. 

And it will be, above all, a love story.